How to Stop Water Leaks in the Basement
You can view all of my Posts by clicking on the following Link: HelpMeFixHome.com
Before I get into the Step-by-Step Instructions for How to Stop Water Leaks in the Basement – Part 1, I would like to explain the probable causes. Since there could be several contributing factors as to why you are getting water in your Basement, you need to understand the potential causes, and then see if any or many apply to your specific situation. You obviously need to know the cause of the problem before you can efficiently fix it.
Anyone who has ever experienced water appearing unexpectedly in a Basement knows what a pain this can be. Cleanup can be extensive and time consuming, especially if the Basement is a finished one. It is still no picnic even if the Basement is not finished. Water can damage or destroy flooring, possessions, wallboard, and create Mold. So, let’s learn How to Stop Water Leaks in the Basement – Part 1.
The first obvious cause for Basement Water Intrusion could be cracks in your Foundation. These cracks could occur if you ever had any larger Trees planted too close to your Foundation.
Tree roots will usually spread out to the size of the Tree’s canopy. So, if your Tree is overhanging your Home, chances are, the roots are too close to your Foundation. These Trees need to be cut down and the Stumps removed.
Also, too much moisture in the ground near your Foundation could be responsible. This will cause excessive expanding and contraction in freezing and thawing temperatures, changes the pressure put on your Foundation, causing the Concrete to crack.
There are two very basic things that will prevent Basement Water Intrusion in at least 95% of Homes: Proper Grading and Gutters. Grading is the first thing to look at if there are water problems in a Home. I know this sounds very basic, and it is, but you would be surprised at the number of Homeowners who either ignore this issue, or feel that it can not be that big of a contributor to the problem. However, that could not be further from the truth.
If the Grounds surrounding your Home slope toward your Home, allowing water to pond next to your Home rather than be directed away, this can be a huge factor in causing water to enter your Home. The fix for improper Grading is to simply change the Grade and the Landscaping.
Changing the Grade and the Landscaping to get water flowing away from your Home is sometimes as easy as bringing in some Topsoil, installing it next to your Home, and grading the Ground to pitch away from your Home. The slope of the Topsoil away from your Home does not need to be anything dramatic; it just needs to be enough to prevent water from sitting next to your Home. Usually, a downward pitch of 1” for every 10’ is sufficient. Just be careful not to pile the Topsoil too high against your Foundation, because this could lead to rotting of the Sill Plate, which is made of Wood and sits on the top of your Foundation. Try to keep the grade at least 4” – 6″ below the top of your Foundation Wall.
Homes will often be too close to each other to allow for proper Grading. In these cases, one option is to create a Swale in the yard, which will allow for water to go around your Home in a type of trench, and be deposited in a more favorable area, such as the street. A Swale is merely a depression, or a low area between slopes that provides for drainage.
When a Swale is not practical, an underground Drain System can be installed in your Yard. This system consists of large Corrugated Plastic Drain Tubing installed underground that collects and directs surface water to a more desirable location, such as the street or storm sewer. You can either rent a Trenching Machine or dig the trench by hand.
While the Trenching Machine can make it quick and easy to dig the trench, it will take some effort to repair the nasty scar left in your Yard. A better way to dig the trench, is to cut the Sod with a Flat Spade Shovel, scrape underneath it, and just fold it back for the entire length of the trench , and then to dig out the trench. Once you’re done, just fold the Sod back down, press it firmly in place, and Fertilize and water it. It takes a little more time and definitely more work initially, but the healing process for the Yard is very short, and expense will be minimal.
Gutters and Downspouts
The other basic thing to look at when your Home has Basement Water problems is your Gutters and Downspouts. Without Gutters, rainwater will shed water from your Roof and deposit it near your Foundation.
If your Home has Gutters, but improper Downspout Extensions, the water will still end up concentrating next to your Home. Again, this is bad news. Proper Downspout Extensions will carry water well away from your Home; ideally 6’ to 10’. Of course, Gutters need to be cleaned as well. Dirty, overflowing Gutters are worse than having no Gutters at all, since, in addition to causing Basement water, it can also cause Roof and Facia damage.
See my Post: Easiest Way – Clean Out Gutters
Sump Pump Systems
A properly functioning Sump Basket and Sump Pump in your Basement can surely prevent water intrusion, but if the other two aforementioned areas are not dealt with properly, your Sump Pump will be working overtime, and can lead to premature failure.
Installing a Battery-Operated Backup Sump Pump is a good idea if you live in an area where power outages are frequent. A normal Sump Pump will not do you any good if you do not have power to make it run. Most Sump Baskets have enough room to install this secondary system.
Inspect for the Cause
If you end up with a wet Basement this Spring, and you have an unfinished Basement, begin by inspecting all of your Walls for cracks and any water seepage. If your Basement is finished, and your concrete walls are not visible, then, begin by going outside and take a look at how water is being managed at the exterior of your Home. Ideally, take a look while it is raining, in order to make sure that the Gutters and Downspouts are not leaking, and to make sure that water is not ponding near your Foundation. If this all looks good and you still get water in your Basement, the problem might be cracks in your Foundation or defective Drain Tile.
If you have a finished Basement, and you believe that there may be a crack in a Foundation Wall causing your problem, you can approach the fix in one of two ways:
- For inside repairs, you can attempt to determine the exact area where the leakage in your Foundation Wall seems to be starting from, by soaking up any existing water on your floor, and then look to see where it appears to begin again. Then, you can take down any Wall covering in this area and attempt to locate the crack. Once located, you can see my Instructions for this type of repair, below, in Step 6 of my Step-by-Step Instructions.
- If you do not want to tear apart your Basement from the inside, you can make the repair from outside, by simply digging close to the Foundation Wall where you believe that the crack may be located, and make the repair from there. For Instructions for this type of repair, you will need to see my Post: How to Stop Water Leaks in the Basement – Part 2.
Broken Drain Tile, could be a contributing factor to causing a Foundation crack in the first place. If your Drain Tile is cracked, it would allow for excess water to accumulate along your Foundation in the area of the crack, and when freezing takes place, this could contribute to causing a Foundation crack, by causing the concrete to expand and contract more during freezing and unthawing.
Drain Tile is normally installed by the Home Builder, and it is placed along the bottom of each Home’s Foundation. This Drain Tile is fed into the Sump Basket, where the Sump Pump then displaces it. You should also make sure that the this displacement is being directed away from your Home, and not being discharged near your Foundation, where the cycle will just be repeated. This will cause premature Sump Pump failure, and could be disastrous if there is a Power Outage, if your main Sump Pump fails and you do not have a Battery-Operated Backup Pump.
Instructions for Drain Tile repair, is also included in my Post: How to Stop Water Leaks in the Basement – Part 2. For installing a Battery-Operated Backup Pump, see the Instructions in Step 10, further down in this post.
If you have checked all of these probable causes, and still can not figure out the cause of your Basement water problems, the next step would be to contact a Basement Water Specialist.
You can find Basement Water Specialists by clicking on any of the following Links:
- ProReferral.com (operated by Home Depot)
Now I will provide you with Step-by-Step Instructions for hopefully solving any Basement Water Intrusion problems. Depending on your unique situation, some or all of the following Materials and Supplies, along with the following Tools and Supplies will be needed:
Materials & Supplies Needed:
- Silicone Concrete Caulk
- 1” x 2” x 8’s for Stakes (number determined by the number of your area discrepancies – you will get 4 Stakes per 1” x 2”) or you can purchase pre-cut Stakes for a slightly more expensive price
- Topsoil (amount needed dependent on your needs)
- Outside Silicone Caulk for Gutter repairs
- Downspout Extensions
- Self-Tapping Screws – ½” long
- Battery Backup Sump Pump
- Marine Battery
- PVC Piping (amounts, types, and sizes determined by your
- Battery Backup Sump Pump)
- PVC Check Valve
- Gas Powered Generator
- Extension Cords
- Power Strip
In order to purchase any Materials & Supplies Needed, see the appropriate page in any of the drop-down pages under: Home Products – Supplies in my Top Menu.
Scroll down the list to find the correct item. You will find an explanation of that item, as well as, links under each item, which direct you to my Recommended Suppliers for you to check out their offerings.
Tools & Supplies Needed:
- Safety Glasses
- Work Gloves
- Work Boots
- Caulk Gun
- Stanley Knife with Razor Blade
- Long Rod or Nail
- Concrete Chisel
- Baby Sledgehammer
- Whisk Broom
- Skill Saw or Compound Miter Saw
- Magic Marker
- Tarps for Topsoil (size and/or amounts to be determined by the amount of Topsoil needed – should cover top and bottom of your piles)
- Metal Rake
- 24” Aluminum Leveling Rake
- Long-Handled Flat Dirt Shovel
- Long-Handled Pointed Digging Shovel
- Flat Spade Shovel
- Cordless Drill with appropriate Bit
- Phillips Head Screwdriver
In order to purchase any Tools & Supplies Needed, see the appropriate page in any of the drop-down pages under: Home – Garden: Tools and Equipment List in my Top Menu.
Scroll down the list to find the correct item. You will find an explanation of that item, as well as, links under each item, which direct you to my Recommended Suppliers for you to check out their offerings.
Since some of you may have multiple issues causing your Basement Water Intrusion, in this post, I have included Instructions for the following Projects here in: How to Stop Water Leaks in the Basement – Part 1:
- Repairing Cracks in Basement Walls
- Correcting Your Landscaping Grade
- Adding Gutters, Downspouts, and Downspout Extensions
- Installing a Battery Backup Sump Pump
- Adding a Gas Powered Generator
You can do them in order if you have multiple causes, or you can simply skip to the part that applies specifically to your situation. Either way, you should first review my additions here for the first (5) Steps, then, go on to see my Post: (5) Steps in Project Management, before returning here to Step 6 or the appropriate Step for your Project.
For those of you that have determined that the cause of your water issues in your Basement is due to faulty or lack of Drain Tile, please see my Post: How to Stop Water Leaks in the Basement – Part 2
Step 1 – Assess the Project
Begin by Assessing the potential causes to your Basement water issues in the following order:
- Foundation Cracks – For unfinished Basements, inspect all Foundation Walls for cracks and/or water seepage. Do this in a good rain storm. For finished Basements, see my suggestions above for ways to locate cracks.
- Landscaping Grade – Check for proper Grading away from your Foundation.
- Gutters, Downspouts, and Downspout Extensions – Check for cracks and/or leaks, as well as, proper Extensions.
- Installing a Battery Backup Sump Pump – Install this addition to your Main Sump Pump to help during a Power Outage.
- Adding a Gas Powered Generator – Add this addition to allow your main Sump Pump to work during a Power Outage.
- If there are any Foundation cracks that you will addressing, list on some scratch paper any Materials and Tools Needed that you do not have on hand for this portion of the Project.
- If you are adjusting your Grade, you will need to be create a Design Plan of your Home on scratch paper (simply, a rectangle or whatever shape your Home is). Your Design should only fill the center half of your paper.
- Then, with your Tape Measure in hand, go around the perimeter of your Home, and mark on your paper any adjustments needed in any areas (the + or – number of inches of the adjustment), as well as the approximate square footage of each adjustment (length x width). Remember, the ideal Grade is about 4” – 6” below the top of your Foundation, tapering down, 1” per every 10’. Record these findings on your Design Plan.
- In order to calculate the amount of Top Soil needed, please see my Post: How to Calculate Amount of Material Needed, specifically, the sections on Square Footage and Cubic Yardage.
- Add up all of the areas where Top Soil will need to be removed, and subtract that from any areas where Top Soil will need to added. If there is still Top Soil needed, add up the remaining square footage and average depth. Make your calculations, and record the amount of cubic yards of Top Soil that you will need to order on your scratch paper. You will later, transfer this to your Materials and Supplies Needed sheet.
- Next, check the condition of your Gutters and Downspouts. If there are any small cracks, you can seal these with some Outside Silicone Caulk. On your scratch paper, note any Materials and Tools Needed for this part of the Project, such as: Caulk, Downspout Extensions, Screws, etc.
- Also, note on your scratch paper if you will be purchasing a Battery Operated Backup Pump, Marine Battery, and/or Generator and Extension Cords. All of these items will later be transferred to your Materials and Tools Needed sheet in the next Step.
- Once all of the potential cause(s) for your Basement water issues have been determined by your Assessments, check to see if you have all of the Materials and Tools Needed to address the problem. If not, go on to complete Step 2.
Step 2 – Create a Materials & Tools Needed Sheet
Based on your Assessment of the types of repairs that you need to make, create a Materials and Tools Needed sheet according to my Instructions in my Post: 5 Steps for Project Management. Be sure to carefully go thru the Materials Needed list in order to make certain that all Materials Needed for each part of the Project are added to your sheet. Then, check the Tools Needed list for any that you do not have, so that you can add them to your sheet as well.
If you are purchasing Top Soil in order to adjust your Grade, remember to order enough Tarps to cover your Soil top and bottom. This will make your final clean up easier, as well as protect the Soil from getting wet should it rain while working on your Project. Also, be sure to have the Soil dumped as close to the work site as possible.
If you are ordering any Downspout Extension, remember to order the appropriate number of Self-Tapping Screws needed for attachment. Also, add to your sheet, any Tools that you do not have to complete your Project.
If you are purchasing Top Soil in order to adjust your Grade, the following information will be helpful for determining whether to purchase bags of Topsoil, pickup Topsoil from a Dirt Farm in your own Truck, or have Topsoil delivered to your Home in bulk:
- Topsoil sold in bags is usually sold in 1 cubic Foot bags (not cubic Yards), which generally contains between .75 and 1 cubic Foot of material in each bag. You would therefore need at least 27 bags for each cubic Yard needed.
- One cubic Yard of Topsoil weighs approximately 1 ton. Most Half-ton Pickup Trucks can manage this safely. Heavier-duty One-ton and 3/4-ton pickups can often hold and handle up to 2 cubic yards, or about 2 tons safely.
- If you will require a substantial amount of Topsoil, it will probably be much cheaper to buy it in bulk. You will need to check with local Dirt Farms for pricing comparisons of picked up verses delivered for the quantity of Topsoil needed, and compare this to the bag price as well.
- Based on all of the information that you noted on your scratch paper, after Assessing all of the areas of concern, transfer this information to a Materials and Tools Needed sheet. Be sure to add any Tools that you do not have in order to complete this Project.
Step 3 – Calculate Project Cost
Step 4 – Order Your Materials & Tools Needed
Step 5 – Inspect Your Delivery
After reviewing the information here, additional information to complete these first (5) Steps is found in the page: 5 Steps for Project Management. Simply click on that link and you will be directed there.
After completing those first (5) Steps, return to these Instructions and continue on to Step 6 or the appropriate Step to address your issue.
Step 6 – Repairing Cracks in Basement Walls
After determining where any cracks are located in your Basement Walls, determine whether it is best to repair them from the inside or the outside. Make the repairs needed.
Repair Foundation cracks as follows:
- If you are repairing your cracks from inside and your Basement is finished, you will first need to remove any Wall covering in order to access your cracks.
- Once the crack(s) have been locate, take your Concrete Chisel and Baby Sledgehammer, and chip away at both sides of the crack from top to bottom. You should chisel the crack about ¼” wide and about ¼” deep.
- Brush the crack out with your Whisk Broom.
- Take your Stanley Knife and cut the tip of the tube of Concrete Silicone Caulk at a 45 degree angle, and far enough back from the tip to allow 1/8” – 1/4” diameter hole in the tip.
- Place your Caulk into your Caulk Gun, and poke the tip with a long Rod or Nail to break the seal.
- If your crack is on the upper half of your Wall, apply the Caulk from the top down, completely filling the crevice that you chiseled. If your crack is on the lower half of your Wall, start at the bottom and go up to the top.
- Completely let the Caulk cure before reassembling your Wall (check the directions on your Caulk for cure times). Ideally, you should wait for the next heavy rain to be able to inspect each crack to make sure that you have solved the problem before buttoning up your Wall. If no rain is scheduled to come soon, you could take your Garden Hose, and let it run next to your Foundation for a couple of hours, in the vicinity of each crack, checking each crack to make sure that there are no leaks.
- Reassemble your Wall to restore it back to the original condition.
If you will be repairing your cracks on the outside of your Foundation, please see my Post: How to Stop Water Leaks in the Basement – Part 2
Step 7 – Correcting Your Landscaping Grade
In order to have the proper Grade surrounding your Home, you will need to have the following:
- Topsoil that sits approximately 4” – 6” below the top of your Foundation
- Grade pitched at a consistent downward angle away from your Home of at least 1” drop for every 10’ of length.
Remove any existing Plantings that will be affected by adding or removing more than 1” of Topsoil and Replant them after the new Grading has been completed.
Check your current Grade around your Home’s perimeter, and cut up the number of needed Stakes in order to mark the areas that will be changed. Install the Stakes in the areas where adjustment will occur, marking each Stake with the adjustment needed (+ or – and the number of inches).
Add or remove Topsoil as needed in any areas that require it. Be sure to lay down Tarps under Topsoil that will be stored on anything other than bare ground to make the final cleanup easier. Have any Topsoil being delivered dumped as close as possible to the work site. Cultivate the top 2” of existing Topsoil before adding any additional Topsoil, and then, mix together the old and new soils to bind them together.
- Consult your Design Plan and note the number of areas that will require a change in Grade and where they are located. You will need at least (4) Stakes to mark the (4) corners of each area that needs to change. More Stakes may be required if the level within a given area is up and down.
- Then, put on your Safety Glasses and Work Gloves, and cut up your 1” x 2”s into the appropriate number of Stakes that you will need. Each Stake should be 24” in length, and pointed at the bottom. You can either use a Skill Saw or Compound Miter Saw to make these cuts.
- Using the Stakes that you have cut and pointed, pound in Stakes at the beginning and end of any discrepancies with your Baby Sledgehammer, using a short scrap 2” x 4” as a buffer when pounding in order to prevent Stakes from being damaged on top. Pound the Stakes about 6” into the Ground, keeping them at least 6” away from your Home. With your Magic Marker, mark each as to whether the existing Ground needs to be added to or is already too high. If the Grade needs to come up, mark your Stake at the exact height that your Grade should be in that area, by placing a line across the Stake at that point.
Example: If your existing Grade is 2” too low, use your Tape Measure to measure from the existing Grade, up 2 ½” (the extra ½” is to allow for resettling of the Ground after tilling it up in order to bind the old Soil with the new), and place a line across your Stake at that point. You will then add Top Soil to bring your Grade up to that mark.
- If your existing Grade is currently too high, mark the Stake with a minus sign, followed by the number of inches that needs to be removed.
Example: If your existing Grade is 2” too high, mark the Stake: – 2” to indicate that you need to remove 2” from the existing Grade (you do not add a ½” when removing).
- If you are adjusting your Grade by adding or removing more than 1” of Topsoil, you will need to remove any Plantings affected, and Replant them to the proper depth, after the Grade adjustments are made. If you are removing or adding less than 1” of Topsoil, you can simply taper your Grade from each Plant up or down to the newly Graded height.
- Most Plants can not tolerate being buried more than an additional 1” at their base, nor do they like being more than an 1” above Ground level at their base. Keep in mind, that Transplanting is always more successful when performed within a month that contains an ‘R’, such as April or October. Also, Transplanting should only be performed under the following conditions:
- Temperatures during Transplanting should not exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Plants should be thoroughly watered down to their roots 24 hours before transplanting.
- Removal should incorporate Topsoil covering all Plant Roots.
- Plants should be kept damp and in a shaded Area until Replanted.
- Thorough packing of the Topsoil surrounding each Plant should be accomplished in order to eliminate any air gaps.
- Thorough watering of each Plant should be provided within a short time after the Replanting has been completed.
These are general care instructions, which if followed, will substantially cause a better than average success rate of Plant survival after the Transplant. However, no guarantees are implied as to the success of each Transplant, since the condition of each Plant prior to the Transplant can not be ascertained.
- Then, using your Rototiller, till up any areas where a change in Grade will occur, whether the existing Grade is too high or too low. If it is an area that is already too high, till down to the needed depth of removal. If it is an area where new Topsoil will be added, till those areas about 2” deep, in order to later, mix the new Topsoil added with the existing Soil in order to bind the two Soils together. This is especially important if the area is sloped to prevent the new Topsoil from sliding down on an already hard packed surface.
- Then, begin by removing any high spots, adding the removed Soil to any other low areas.
- If you are removing more Soil than you have need of for any other low areas in your Grade, very often there will be other low spots in your Yard where this Soil may be used. If not, considering installing a raised Planting Bed somewhere on your Property where this Soil will come in handy.
- Next, add any additional Top Soil needed in any other low areas. Once complete, run your Rototiller through those areas to bind the new and old Soils together.
- Once the new Grade has been completed, you should Replant any disturbed Plantings and water them thoroughly.
Step 8 – Adding Gutters and Downspouts
If you are in need of Gutters and Downspouts on your Home, it is best to have these installed by the Professionals, as apposed to doing this yourself. Professionals will be able to supply you with one-piece continuous Gutters, which will never require repairing leaking seams down the road. It will be well worth the expense. 6” Gutters and Downspouts are preferred to the smaller 4”. They will much better accommodate heavy rains and will clog less frequently. You can contact Gutter Installers by visiting any of the following Links:
- ProReferral.com (operated by Home Depot)
If you have Gutters and Downspouts, but just need some Extensions to dispense the water further away from your Foundation, you can purchase these and install them yourself. Gutter Extensions should deposit water at least 6’ – 10’ away from your Home’s Foundation. You should use (2) Self-Tapping Screws for each Extension, one on either side, approximately 1” in from the end of the connection.
Step 9 – Installing a Battery-Operated Backup Sump Pump
Installing a Battery-Operated Backup Sump Pump is a good idea if you lose Power frequently, causing your Main Sump Pump to be of no use during these times. Simply follow the Manufacturers Instructions for installing. I would recommend purchasing one with at least 1/3 Horsepower for best results, along with a quality Marine Battery.
Purchase Marine Battery at:
Step 10 – Gas-Powered Generator
As an alternative, or in addition to a Battery-Operated Backup Sump Pump, is the Gas-Powered Generator. A Gas-Powered Generator, although only useful when you are at Home during a Power Outage, can provide you with the ability to not only plug in your existing Sump Pump, but can also provide power for additional items, such as: Lights, TV, Refrigerator, Freezer, etc. You will also need an adequate supply of Heavy Duty Extension Cords to plug your various items into your Generator, along with a Power Strip or two. Usually, a 14/3 or a 12/3 Gauge Extension Cord is adequate, along with a 3 – 6 Outlet Power Strip. A good Generator, along with these accessories, will give you years of service, and will be worth their weight in gold during a Power Outage.
Congratulations on a Job Well Done!
Please take the time to leave a Comment or ask a Question in the Comments section below. Let me know how your Project went.